CPTSD – Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Recommended DSM diagnostic criteria, per Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, ©1992 by Basic Books. A history of subjection to totalitarian control over a prolonged period (months to years).

Examples include:

  •     Hostages
  •     Prisoners of war
  •     Concentration-camp survivors
  •     Survivors of some religious cults

Persons subjected to totalitarian systems in sexual and domestic life, including:

  •     Survivors of domestic battering
  •     Childhood physical or sexual abuse
  •     Organized sexual exploitation.

Alterations in affect regulation, including:

  •         persistent dysphoria
  •         chronic suicidal preoccupation
  •         self-injury
  •         explosive or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate)
  •         compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate)

Alterations in consciousness, including:

  •         amnesia or hyperamnesia for traumatic events
  •         transient dissociative episodes
  •         depersonalization/derealization
  •         reliving experiences, either in the form of intrusive post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or in the form of ruminative preoccupation

Alterations in self-perception, including:

  •         sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative
  •         shame, guilt, and self-blame
  •         sense of defilement or stigma
  •         sense of complete difference from others (may include sense of specialness, utter aloneness, belief no other person can understand, or nonhuman identity)

Alterations in perception of perpetrator, including:

  •         preoccupation with relationship with perpetrator (includes preoccupation with revenge)
  •         unrealistic attribution of total power to perpetrator (caution: victim’s assessment of power realities may be more realistic than clinician’s)
  •         idealization or paradoxical gratitude
  •         sense of special or supernatural relationship
  •         acceptance of belief system or rationalizations of perpetrator

Alterations in relations with others, including:

  •         isolation and withdrawal
  •         disruption in intimate relationships
  •         repeated search for rescuer (may alternate with isolation and withdrawal)
  •         persistent distrust
  •         repeated failures of self-protection

Alterations in systems of meaning:

  •         loss of sustaining faith
  •         sense of hopelessness and despair



CPTSD – Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — 8 Comments

  1. My ex used the Bible, people at church, people at his job, and he even convinced a counselor i was seeing, that he was practically perfect and that i was the crazy one. He was a total narciscist. He was emotionally and mentally abusive. He thru our dog down our stairs, punched holes in the walls, and wanted me to do things in the bedroom that i didnt want to do, butmade me feel like in order to be a “good Christian wife” i would do what he wanted. one time i felt like i had been raped. All this was so he could maintain his image as a teacher while being a pedophile. i was always the one who was in the wrong, and he was always right. I got rid of him about 8 yrs ago, but it feels like yesterday. To make matters even worse, he looked at kiddie porn and wanted to destroy the computer. I called the cops on him, but they didnt even send it to a place that specializes in getting this crap off the hard drive. They gave the damn thing back to him! It took so much for me to call them and then the detective gave it back to him, only because i wouldnt come in and talk to him when he wanted me to before talking to a lawyer for myself. He was just as psycho as my ex. Most of the time PTSD treatment is for soldiers, but what about people like me? I’m leary of going to a counselor again because of what happened with the other one. i went to another one, but she kept falling asleep or blamimg my mom for stuff. So here i am, i cant remember the last time i slept all night. No drs. will refill sleeping pills for me. i have many of the symptoms you describe.

    • Hi. I am sorry for all the suffering you have been through. And to have a counsellor be convinced that you were the one to blame is sad. Perhaps you can go to the following blog. Healmyptsd.com. She can actually be contacted and has some great information. She wasn’t diagnosed with ptsd for 24 years. She has convinced me healing is possible. Take care of yourself and don’t believe any of the lies your husband told you or that your counsellor fell for. You need healing and sleep!

    • Lorie, I see that your post was made over a year ago. However, I feel compelled to reply. Unfortunately, I was married to a minister who was also emotionally, spiritually, and mentally abusive. It was a very traumatic experience for me. I have since written a book of how God healed me through a series of things I did to overcome the tumultuous situation.
      My marriage ended in 2011 and I have been happy ever since. I sleep very well at night, I have joy and peace that God promised now. I think this book will help you and others in our situation. Since writing my book, I have met so many people, mostly women, who share their stories with me. Each story feels like the first story.
      The title of my book is Thank You Hurt…I’m Better Sense I Faced You! It is available on my website, http://www.bettersense.org, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.
      I wish you well and pray that you do/will know genuine peace, love, and good rest. I do!

  2. It’s awful what you have been put through. Especially disappointing are the responses by the professionals we all put our trust in. I am so glad you got out of that relationship safely. I’m not a doctor but from what I’ve read, your ex fits the description of a narcissist, maybe even worse.
    Two years ago I was let go from my workplace after 13 years when a narcissist moved into our office and decided she didn’t want me there anymore. She told many lies and distorted the truth. Some of my personal belongings also just ‘disappeared.’ I was so naive and by the time I figured out what was going on it was too late and I was sent home for creating a “hostile work environment.” I never would have believed one person could do so much damage.
    I found this article today about PTSD brought on by someone with narcissistic personality disorder. I really hope it helps.


  3. I am now divorced 15 years but it still comes over me, this huge sadness. As a child I was abused emotionally and physically by my parents: striking, shutting me away in a closet,humiliated in public, etc. Later the same by my boyfriends and later on my husband. Almost a lifetime feeling like I wasn’t worth being someone. I am free now, for the first time in my life. though unable to trust any man. They horrify me, and certain women similar to my mother, as well. I miss the confidence I used to have in people. I am not bitter,but deeply sad. I don’t talk about it; have only a few friends but they wouldn’t want to know. You don’t show your bleeding wounds to people.
    One can never forget, never.

    • Your words could be mine…. I am 15 years out from my divorce and still struggling with getting over it. I don’t know that I will ever be the same trusting, innocent, young woman that I was…. I too have the deep sadness that seems to be part of everything I do and say. I so want to be open and available and all I do is freak out and disappoint people when they try to be close to me.

  4. I say the following things with the love and empathy that someone who had PTSD, and other disorders, has.

    1. It should not take you 15 years to feel better. You are most likely ruminating, going over the same material over and over, in no different way. You need to look at it differently in order to improve. Look at The PostTraummatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook by Schiraldi. It helped saved my life as far as I am concerned. (along with a little therapy and a friend I told some of my feelings to, though not all). You can definitely come back from this nightmare. I am living proof. Try to surround yourself with people you know love you for who you are, even if you don’t feel their love because of dissociation/avoidance.

    2. You can avoid the same man by noticing what it was about them that attracted you to them, that later you could see what a sign of worse things to come. Perhaps he seemed overly confident? If he cannot admit flaws early on and seems to think he is the greatest thing ever i.e. has no humility, then be on guard that he might have narcissistic tendencies. Does he say kind thing about you? Or is everything, one way or another, always about him?

    3. You will NEVER be the person you were before. Don’t try. It’s not possible. You are “new you” now. You are the survivor. You have to forge an all new you/identity and incorporate any positives from the experience. Who do you want to be? Make a list. For me, I came full-circle, I lived through hell and I survived. I was much stronger than when I started, even though it took me a while to realize that. I also appreciate those who love me, and the simple gifts of life far more. I am thankful for every beautiful thing I get to see in the world, and that is all I need. If I get more, that’s terrific. But I am happy with me. I know I am a good person who loves and cares – and just forget(or the appropriate expletive) anyone who isn’t.

    4. You wouldn’t be able to forget even if you tried, so don’t worry about forgetting and somehow making the same mistake again. You didn’t make the same mistake because you forgot your last experience. You made the same mistake because you didn’t take the time to learn from the last you and see the warning signs that tell you who is a messed up person and not worth your time. All men are not bad. Learn what qualities make a good man, and which ones don’t. If he is controlling and abusive with any regularity/not due to extraordinary circumstances (lost his job/family member) get rid of him. ASAP. Don’t wait around. It will not get better and you will lose all of you in the process. And as you know, it is hell to try to get it back.

    But you can. Order that book.

  5. Don’t tell other people how long it takes to get better from PTSD or CPTSD, especially since CPTSD comes from cumulative experience that may have taken longer than the time your target has had to recover.

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